Every hero needs a villain, or in the case of characters like Batman, a whole gallery of villains. Seriously, Batman’s Rouge gallery of villains is probably the most iconic and well known, heck their so popular that they get their own spin-off material. This year it comes in the form of the theatrical movie “Suicide Squad”, which revolves entirely around various Batman enemies. Being a long time fan of the caped crusader, I obviously think his enemies are among the best villains ever to come from the world of comics. There are countless ones to highlight, but for this list I’ll just keep it simple and round up my own personal Top 10 Favorite villains from the Batman universe. Keep in mind, this is my own personal list, nothing official, agree or disagree, here are the characters that are just so bad ... their awesome!
#10 Harley Quinn
“Ha, and here you thought I was just another bubble-headed-blonde-bimbo, well the jokes on you ... I'm not even a real blonde”.
Perhaps the cutest and most enjoyable of Batman’s rouge gallery is the Jokers kooky love interest called Harley Quinn. Making her first appearance in the classic 90’s Batman animated series, Harley has become one of the biggest fan favorite characters from the Dark Knights ever growing universe. She’ll even be making her first big screen appearance in the new “Suicide Squad” movie, as portrayed by Margot Robbie. This bubble headed goon walks a fine line between being nasty and lovable all at once. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something instantly joyful and appealing about this character and her energetic, yet completely psychotic personality. Who would have thought that a villain as famous as the Joker would need a side-kick, but honestly, he’s just not complete without his loony girl friend.
#9 The Court of Owls
“Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time. Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed. Speak not a whispered word about them, or they’ll send a Talon for your head.”
Some Batman villains are known more than others, but hidden in-between the cracks are the less appreciated ones like the sinister Court of Owls. The Court is a secret society that slowly takes control of the city from deep within the shadows of Gotham, so deep that Batman himself is oblivious of their works. Their like Gotham Cities Illuminati, and have their own league of Death-like assassins called Talon’s. The concept of a secret underground colt, with people hiding their faces behind scary white masks help create a eerie atmosphere where you just can’t trust anyone, and anybody can secretly be a member, whether it’s a girlfriend, a businessman or even a little child. Their biggest claim to fame is when they corrupted the mind of Batman’s partner Robin and turned the two on each other. The court was featured as the main villains in the animated movie “Batman vs Robin”, and also made several appearances in the “Gotham” TV series. With their haunting masks and undead Talon assassins, they make for intimidating foes that disserve more attention, and personally I’d love to see them in a theatrical Batman movie.
#8 Poison Ivy
“They can bury me in the ground, as deep as they like. But I’ll grow back, we plants always grow back.”
Personally, I’ve always loved super villains that are both beautiful and bad, which is Poison Ivy in a nut shell. This crazed eco-terrorist favors plant life over humanity and has an army of mutant plant monsters that do her bidding. I'll admit, this always made her feel the most “Comic-book-esk” of all Batman’s foes. This also gave her a fun variety of things to do, and it’s always an exciting treat to see what kind of new killer plant she’d unleash on the city next. She was one of my favorite villains from the 90’s animated Batman series, and her final episode titled “House and Garden” was a perfect example of just how disturbing and even tragic the character can be. Heck, I even thought Uma Thurman’s portrayal of the character from the 1997 film “Batman and Robin” was halfway decent. With her venomous kisses, good looks and killer plants, she still stands as an iconic foe in the Batman universe and still a personal favorite.
“When Gotham is reduced to ashes ... then you have my permission to die!”
Physically, Bane is Batman’s most devastating foe, and one of the first to truly break him. While the character has been featured in TV shows, comics, video games and even movies like “Batman and Robin”, it was his 2012 portrayal by Tom Hardy in the film “The Dark Knight Rises” that drew attention to the character and made him one of my new favorites. This was one of those villains that just felt larger than life whenever he was on screen, and it’s great that the character has quickly gained more recognition as one of Batman’s more note worthy foes.
#6 Ra's Al Ghul
“Death does not wait for you to be ready! Death is not considerate, or fair! Make no mistake ... here, you face death.”
While the Joker is obviously Batman’s most famous adversary, it’s Ra’s Al Ghul who takes the cake as his greatest enemy. I didn’t even know about the character until he was featured as a main reoccurring villain in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, most notably as the main antagonist of “Batman Begins” as portrayed by Liam Neeson. Sense then I’ve become more and more interested in this character over some of his flashier enemies like the Riddler and so forth. This was the first of Batman’s villains to unleash his evil further then just Gotham city, and was more of a global threat. He’s also an immortal thanks to his regenerative bath tanks, making him even harder to stop indefinitely. The drastic and deadly means he goes to seek his ends put him in direct conflict with Batman, and just an all around awesome adversary in the process.
#5 The Phantasm
“Your Angle of Death Awaits”
Now here’s a rare kind of villain that represents the darker side of Batman himself, like if Batman had no problem executing criminals. The Phantasm made its first appearance in the 1993 theatrical animated film “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”, and has sense become a fan favorite. With a cryptic voice and awesome design, the Phantasm arguably has the most haunting presence of any other Batman villain. However, it’s the back story behind the character, and its connection with Batman that makes the Phantasm a personal favorite of mine. It’s a character devoid of common villain clichés, it doesn’t try to gain power or take over the world, it’s just a tortured animal that has been set loose and seeking vengeance.
#4 The Joker
“Let’s put a smile on that face.”
Well, a list of greatest Batman villains wouldn’t be complete without the famous clown prince of crime. Like the Joker even needs an introduction, he’s Batman’s most iconic adversary, and personal opposite. One is a noble hero who hides in a dark form, while the other actually is a heartless monster that hides under a bright and colorful appearance. Batman and the Joker might just be the most perfectly matched hero and villain in all of comic book history, and just about every portrayal of the famous villain is outstanding. From Cesar Romero in the 1960’s series and “Batman The Movie”, to Jack Nicholson in Tim Burtons 1989 “Batman”, to Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal in “The Dark Knight”, to Jared Leto in “Suicide Squad”, the Joker has been brought to life by several talented actors in all forms of media. If I had to pick a personal favorite, it would be Mark Hamill from the animated series, and the 1993 theatrical movie “Batman Mask of the Phantasm”. That’s not to put down any of the other talents, they all give great credit to the character, and have further launched the Joker’s popularity into the mainstream. I have to admit, even though The Joker is the most iconic of Batman’s adversaries, I personally don’t think he’s the best, in fact there are still three others yet to come on this list that I think are just a pinch better. With that said, the Joker will forever be immortalized in the villain hall of fame.
#3 Slade (Death Stroke)
“I will never stop, not now, not ever, I am the thing that keeps you awake at night, and the evil that haunts every dark corner of your mind.”
If the Joker is Batman’s arch foe, then Slade is Robbins personal nemesis. While this character is more of a Teen Titans villain, he still exists in Batman’s universe and has battled the dark knight on several occasions, so he still counts. Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, is a different class of villain, and one that really needs more attention. Slade has gone from anti-hero, to small time assassin, to leader of a criminal empire, and is always large and in charge. This characters modern day fame ignited with the animated “Teen Titans” TV show in the early 2000’s, and sense has become one of my absolute favorite bad guys from the comic book universe. He was a villain shrouded in mystery, his voice could give you chills, and he knew that the most effective way to take out the hero’s is by turning them against one another, usually in very violent ways. Ron Perlmans sinister voice acting from the animated TV series was a huge credit to the character. His legacy has continued through various Batman video games, and he also stood out once again as a threatening adversary in the 2014 animated film “Son of Batman”. I swear, this guy needs to be featured in a live action movie or TV series, because he’s just too cool to leave on the animated drawing board.
“You either die a hero, or ... you live to see yourself become the villain.”
Personally, I think the most interesting villains are the ones born from tragedy, and Two-Face is perhaps the most depressing of all. District Attorney Harvey Dent represented a chance for peace in a corrupt city, but he eventually stood out as the biggest failure of Batman’s career, as well as a dark reminder of the price that comes from standing up to evil. Like most of Batman’s foe’s, there have been many different renditions of this character, but the core concept still remains the same. This was once a respected man that did great serves to his city, even aided the hero on several occasions. However, after one unfortunate event, everything changed. Now his scared face represents the two sides of society ... justice and corruption. Unfortunately, in the case of Two-Face, he’s about as corrupt as they get. Most portrayals of the character from the TV shows and films have been stealer, even with Tommy Lee Jones hamming it up in the 1995 movie “Batman Forever”. For whatever it’s worth, I’d go so far to say that Aaron Eckhart’s version of Two-Face from the 2008 film “The Dark Knight” is my favorite theatrical portrayal of any of batman’s classic foes.
Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions ...
Talia Al Ghul
Dr. Hugo Strange
#1 Mr. Freeze
“Rest in peace my love, the monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish ... best served COLD!”
Most would call the Joker Batman’s greatest foe, but my personal favorite will always be Mr. Freeze. Now obviously there have been several different variations of the character over the years. Sometimes he’s portrayed as a ruthless monster, like in the early 2000’s show “The Batman”. Other times he’s been portrayed as a comedic goofball bad guy like in the 1997 movie “Batman and Robin”. However, when the character is done right, he just outshines all the others ... well, in my opinion. Paul Dini’s conception of the character from the 90’s animated Batman series is the perfect example of this character done right. In this story, Mr. Freeze has a frozen wife who could possibly be saved from a critical disease, but every time the chance came to save her, the opportunity slips through his fingers. When compared to Batman’s tragic back-story, Mr. Freeze actually has it far worse. Batman’s parents are only dead, he can morn them and move on with his life, but Mr. Freeze cant morn his wife, nor can he save her. He’s literally and figuratively frozen in a situation that he just can’t escape. The thing that’s eating away at his soul, and making his heart so cold isn’t greed, power or vengeance ... it’s HOPE! That’s a brilliant concept for a villain, and when you combine that with his menacing voice, signature gun, and all around awesome design, he honestly stands out to me like the Darth Vader of Batman enemies. Even the versions or Mr. Freeze that ignore his complex back-story can still be very exciting to watch, as he’s more than a match for our dynamic hero.